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Last Updated: Thursday, 23 June, 2005, 10:15 GMT 11:15 UK
Ancient bone not from monkey spy
Monkey bone
The bone was found on a beach near Hartlepool
Hopes of unravelling the mystery of the legendary Hartlepool monkey - said to have been hanged as a Napoleonic spy - have been scuppered by science.

Earlier this month archaeologists hoped a leg bone found in the sea close to the town could have been from a monkey.

Folklore says a French ship was wrecked off Hartlepool in the Napoleonic Wars. A monkey found in the water was hanged by fishermen fearing it was a spy.

However, tests show the bone to be from a prehistoric deer.

The mystery was solved by experts from the Department of Archaeology at the University of Durham and Tees Archaeology.

Peter Rowe, of Tees Archaeology, said: "We could tell straight away that the bone was ancient. It has a tell-tale black surface which suggests that it has come from a prehistoric peat bed.

Tribes of hunters

"It's also partly fossilised, which is something we don't often see - it could well be one of the oldest artefacts ever to be found on Teesside."

Tees Archaeology took the bone to the University of Durham where zoo archaeologist Peter Rowley-Conwy identified it as the shin bone of a red deer.

The bone probably dates from at least 6,000 years ago - a time when Britain was still part of mainland Europe.

Herds of deer would have migrated across the land followed by tribes of hunters who prized them for their meat, skins and antlers.

The town legend says that during the Napoleonic Wars a ship was wrecked off the Hartlepool coast and the only survivor was a monkey dressed in French naval costume.

Never having seen a monkey before and not being able to understand its strange language, people decided that the creature was a French spy, and it was condemned to death and hanged.

Peter Rowe added: "We're sorry to disappoint all the fans of the Monkey Legend, but the bone is still a very exciting find."


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